Has your computer merged with your home theater system yet? This kind of product convergence is helping generate one of the fastest growing segments in the technology market, opening numerous new avenues for interesting devices, such as the product that will be reviewed herein.
The idea behind a home theater PC is that computers have reached the stage where they can replace many of those conventional stand-alone components currently cluttering the shelf beneath your television. Imagine: a single device that can be an internet browser, ultimate high resolution gaming machine, DVD player, HDTV tuner, personal video recorder, music jukebox... and able to balance your bankbook at the end of the day. Still like most of your current home theater? Then you don’t have to go quite that far – computers can also be used as a simple accessory. Haven’t you always wanted to play your favorite PC video games on the big screen, or surf the web from your La-Z-Boy?
Typically these uses require the purchase of at least some new hardware, but if your main goal is to simply enjoy your present computer from the comfort of a sofa you’ll likely come across an issue: just how do you obtain effective control from a distance? It’s possible to buy longer cables for wired keyboards and mice, but do you really want those running across the floor? And how about cordless keyboards and mice – they offer no wires and complete system control, but without a table can be quite awkward to use, not to mention a bit of overkill for simple DVD or music controls.
Many big name computer makers have started selling computer systems designed to integrate with the rest of your A/V gear, by utilizing multimedia video cards, slim black cases, whisper-quiet fans and a bundled traditional remote control. Some high-end video cards and sound cards now come with computer-oriented remote controls. Even Microsoft has gotten into the game with Windows XP Media Center Edition, an operating system and remote control combination designed to be used in a central home theater hub.
Don’t feel like spending money on an entirely new computer system, operating system or video card? Then you’ll want to take a closer look at the simplest (and cheapest) way to give your already-paid-for computer system the intuitive and comfortable feel of a traditional home theater: Streamzap Inc’s $39.95 USD MSRP “PC Remote”.
The Obvious Product Name Dept.
Okay, so the folks at Streamzap may not win an award for creative marketing names, but “PC Remote” really does get the point across – a remote control for PCs. For the purpose of this review we’ll call it the “Streamzap”.
The Streamzap is actually a two-part solution: a remote control, plus a compact infrared receiver. Both ship together in one of those “just try to get it open” thick plastic bubbles, along with a driver CD and microscopic instruction booklet. The remote control is fairly average looking: narrow, ergonomically curved and solid black. The infrared receiver is a compact wedge shape that should slip unobtrusively into any available nook.